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October 11, 2005
Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

Hmmm, let me think about the past 8 days. First, remember the mudslide that hit La Roca? Well, the kids cleaned up the side that has the retaining wall, because little material actually slid on this side fortuntately. The municipality very promptly sent 4 workers who spent one entire week cleaning off our basketball court -- followed by 2 days with the kids scraping and sweeping off the last remainders. Apart from the loss of the fence, we were very fortunate to suffer very little damage. The best news is that today I received an email from a family in Italy. In memory of their son (who recently died in a tragic motorcycle accident) they are sending us the funds necessary to pay for concrete, labor, etc. to finish the retaining wall on the left side of La Roca. Apparently this Italian youth had volunteered here briefly when I was not here and had started to raise funds to return and help out. His family and friends decided to carry on his dream and God blessed us through their generosity. The municipality is providing the rock, sand and gravel. Yipppeeee!!

Thursday was a day of intense pain! Physical pain. I went on a hike to inspect the work on the water pipeline at Ceiba Rabona with the foreman. This means: I went in the back of a little pickup truck from San Juan de Opoa, Copan to Consolation, Lempira (about 1.5 hours). We then walked down a little road for about 2km to the town of Santa Rita (not passable without 4x4). From there we cut through bush for about .5km to the source of the water and then followed a trail for another 1.5km to the last pressure release station. From there, we began to criss-cross a little creek, up and down valleys for about 1.5km until we got to Plan de Lapua. Somewhere along that stretch, I seemed to have grabbed a cactus, because I still have slivvers in my hand today. Then the sun got hot. It was a nice .5km walk down to the river, across the swinging bridge and then another .5km not-so-nice up the other side to Ceiba Rabona. All in all, I enjoyed it to that point. At the village, a lady graciously offered us something to drink. I couldn't make out what it was and given that we are well aware of the nature of their current water source, I had to use my imagination to come up with a polite reason to decline. She thinks I'm loony, I'm sure. We made the trip back down to the river and stumbled up the other side to Plan de Lapua where we ate some beans and eggs. One of our guys couldn't go any further -- unless we could find a horse, he was stuck in that little village. The contractor, his son and I started on our way up the road on the last 5km leg back to Consolation, all but a couple hundred meters going upwards. I was dying! Every 300m I had to sit down so that my head wouldn't explode.

The good news out of all of this is that they had advanced very well on the project. They have to dig the trenches a bit deeper to bury the pipe, but they have the source & filter well protected and the pressure release stations according to plan. The ground is ready to start the tank above the village and they have some of the material there ready to start the tank itself. One of the pictures on this page shows 2 of the guys and one youth boy hauling sand from the river up to the tank site. Please understand -- I was dying just walking the project. These guys are digging sand and gravel from the river bank and then hauling it in corn sacks .5 km up a steep hillside. On the other side of the valley, they were hauling sand, gravel and bricks in these sacks for 2km up and down a trail that I often had to hold on to bushes simply to keep from slipping and falling. Today we sent out 3km of PVC piping to install.

The bad news came in stages. First, on Thursday we found that half the village workers are sick -- likely dengue which is really bad this year. Saturday I found out that they installed the source point .43km further up the valley. Excellent source and well installed, but now we have enough pressure on the lines to explode them. Today I found out that the steel pipe we are waiting for is stuck in Guatemala as a result of Hurricane Stan -- their trucks aren't moving as too many of the highways are washed out. To address the source issue, I'm going back tomorrow morning with a GPS to determine where we need to install a third pressure release station. I'm looking forward to another 800mg of Ibuprofen tomorrow night. Fortunately, budgets are holding out on the project thanks to creativity on the part of the contractor.

On Wednesday, I met with ADELSAR -- the local principal development agency that is heavily sponsored by Spanish foreign aid. I went over the proposal for the training center with him and he was very receptive to helping us out with volunteers for instructors and in any other way they possibly can. Today we had a meeting downtown to introduce / review the project with the director of public education for our province, with the governor, with the director of technical training for Western Honduras, with the director of the public night school, with the director of a foundation for agriculture projects, the municipality, the manager of ADELSAR and both candidates for mayor. In total, 3 people showed up. Disappointing to say the least, but at least one of the 3 is likely to be mayor next month. I'm waiting to hear this week about the property itself, as the current owner was to have a meeting late last week with another property owner who must sell their small lot back to him to enable us to change the road access. Further details on this project are available at Project Hope.

Sunday, I went out to the village of San Fernando, Ocotopeque. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, because it was incredible. We were on the Honduran side of the valley that separates Guatemala from Honduras and the view was something else. Of course, the trip was also. We went in my friend's Mazda 4x4 and on the way back we almost didn't make it. It had been raining while we were there and the creeks had risen (no bridges in this sector) and the mud in 2 sections of the road was incredible. Actually it was clay and extremely slippery and extremely deep. The trip really had nothing to do with my work -- it was more to accompany a friend who is just getting over dengue and whose wife was scared to let him go by himself. I'm not sure what she was concerned about, since his 9mm Glock would do more for his security than I ever would. All in all, it reminded me of 4x4 trips some of us used to do back into the foothills in Alberta.

Contact me at phil@timko.ca with any questions or for further information